Backpacking makes us more creative

273032_10151146410449578_1291396890_oAs part of life in Southern California, we have the luxury of hiking and backpacking throughout the year. And we don’t just stay near home where it is convenient. The photo is of a recent trip to Nepal where we spent three glorious weeks in the Himalayas (the mountains in the distance). We are those two specks in the foreground.

Immersion in nature

We do it for exercise and to explore nature, but a recent study by psychologists at the University of Utah and University of Kansas takes it a step further. They ran a study that involved 56 people of both sexes who participated in four- to six-day wilderness hiking trips. No electronic devices were allowed on the trips (more on that later):

Of the 56 study subjects, 24 took a 10-item creativity test the morning before they began their backpacking trip, and 32 took the test on the morning of the trip’s fourth day.
The results: people who had been backpacking four days got an average of 6.08 of the 10 questions correct, compared with an average score of 4.14 for people who had not yet begun a backpacking trip.

Their conclusion?

We show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent

For anyone who backpacks on a regular basis, this won’t come as much of a surprise. We feel remarkably refreshed when we return and that gives us energy to enjoy everything we do…work or non-work. The experiences find a way of weaving themselves into the rest of our life and that’s great for friendship and business both.

Break from multitasking

And they can’t be sure that it is just nature that makes this difference. They gave us this as well:

While earlier research has indicated nature has beneficial effects, “it’s equally plausible that it is not multitasking to wits’ end that is associated with the benefits.

I’m not sure I care which of the reasons led to the benefit, and we would have kept doing it without reading this article.

But now we have an excuse for the boss…

Hiking in Maui

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Categories: Innovation

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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